2008 Ever Onwards / Dracula Revived
This year’s early summer offering from the Totternhoe Players consisted of two one-act plays by Mick Newbold. In the first, Ever Onward, an ageing mummy’s boy discovers that he must overcome more than just the apron strings to progress his budding courtship with simpering Cynthia from the church. In the second, Dracula Revived, a nervous new-boy, set to take the eponymous role in a local production, resorts to hypnosis to help him learn his lines, with disturbing consequences. Vocalist, Karen Wilson - in fine voice, as ever - provided the interval entertainment.
Sadly, Ever Onwards proved rather a poor choice of opener, with its plodding plot construction and dated, two-dimensional, stock characters. I suppose it is not the author’s fault that “the hen-pecked son”, “the nervous vicar” and “the house-proud mother” have become quite so familiar to the modern sitcom audience. Think: Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances, Sorry (with Ronnie Corbett) and so forth. Nevertheless, when they constitute the majority of the characters, there is little a cast can do to make them seem fresh.
The introduction of Mr Robson the lawyer - with young Stephen Tallett giving it his best - offered some respite, but could not salvage the story as a whole. Debutant Pete Soper, as the vicar, showed promise, and will surely not have to contend with quite such a lackluster script in any future productions he features in. The rest of the cast, meanwhile, have all done much better work in the past.
By contrast, Dracula Revived was laugh-out-loud funny throughout. The play is founded on a brilliant central premise: that budding thespian, George, has had the very persona of Count Dracula embedded within him by hypnosis, and the emergence of this alter-ego can by triggered by the simple voicing of any number of key words featured in the script.
Cue a riot of neck-sucking, neighbor-menacing and crucifix-waving, culminating in the hilarious stand-off between the possessed George (Lindzi Hayward) and Reverand Smith, a modern-day fire and brimstone preacher man, played superbly by Faisal Mohiuddin. Julie Morrey, as long-suffering wife Helen, and Els Tallett, as the scandalised Mrs Reverand Smith, offered superb support, while Jacky Eyre provided a good cameo as saucy neighbour, Mrs Andrews.
Another newcomer, Faye Hayward, was also very good as the quick-thinking teenage daughter, Susan. My only complaint at her portrayal of a modern teen was that in one respect it was too accurate: sadly, young tongues are often too quick for old ears. Nevertheless, it was a good showing from the new girl. My award of star performance, however, has to go to Faisal this time.